Attorney General of Quebec, et al. v. 9147-0732 Québec inc.
(Que.) (Criminal) (By Leave)
Constitutional law - Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment (s. 12) - Charter of Rights - Cruel and unusual treatment or punishment - Application of Charter rights to legal persons - Statement of offence issued against business corporation for carrying out construction work as contractor without holding current licence - Provincial building legislation providing for mandatory minimum fine of $30,843 - Whether legal person can benefit from protection of section 12 of Charter - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 12 - Building Act, CQLR, c. B 1.1, ss. 46, 197.1.
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The respondent, a private company, was issued a statement of offence under the Quebec Building Act for carrying out certain construction work as a contractor without holding a current licence for that purpose. Under s. 197.1 of the Act, the penalty for such an offence is a mandatory fine for a minimum amount that varies depending on who the offender is, that is, whether the offender is a natural person or a legal person. The respondent filed a notice of intention to question the constitutionality of the fine provided for in s. 197.1, arguing that the fine violated its right to be protected against “any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” under s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At trial, the Court of Québec held that it was not necessary to rule on the issue of the application of s. 12 of the Charter to legal persons, because the minimum fine at issue was at any rate not cruel and unusual. The respondent was found guilty, and a fine of $30,843 was imposed. On appeal, the Quebec Superior Court affirmed that decision and added that legal persons such as the respondent could not benefit from the protection of s. 12 of the Charter. A majority of the Quebec Court of Appeal set aside the decisions of the lower courts and held that s. 12 of the Charter can in fact apply to legal persons. The matter was returned to the trial court to rule on the specific issue of the fine provided for in s. 197.1 of the Act.
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